Should life imprisonment without the possibility of parole replace the death penalty in California? Essay

Before debating on the phenomenon of death penalty it is imperative to clearly define the term ‘capital punishment’. Capital Punishment refers to death sentence for a crime committed (Baldus 4). The concept dates back to previous ages when crimes were said to be controlled by deterring the criminal through the death penalty. This death penalty was executed in several ways, i.e. through stoning to death, torture but mainly beheading. The word Capital means main or the head signifying this beheading ritual of the ancient system of justice. Capital punishment is usually granted to convicts who have committed heinous acts like murder, brutal extortions, rape, hijacking, arson etc. It is also awarded to persons of government who are guilty of treason charges, leaking of important information, or spying.

Capital punishment is carried forward in several countries to this day through different methods like hanging, gas chambers, torturing, electrocuting and giving lethal injections. Many states of the world practicing this form of justice and have been challenged by human rights organizations for a long time. Proponents of the Death penalty believe that people fear death and if death is the punishment for killing someone, they would refrain from it. They believe that in order to have a just system in place where the victim’s family is put to ease it is important to have an eye for eye approach. The criminal is guilty of taking someone’s life so he is liable to give up his. If the person is mentally unstable to have done so it makes him more dangerous to the society’s well-being and putting him to death is the only way to ensure such crimes do not take place through his hands again.

However, opponents of the death penalty have a strong viewpoint as well. They believe that every life is precious and shouldn’t be given up on. If taking a life is a crime, no one should be allowed to do it, including the government. If a criminal is guilty committing of capital offense he should subjected to punishments that take away his life figuratively, not literally. Also, many believe that taking away a criminal’s life is too easy on him, the real punishment would be him leading a hard life that prologs his sufferings for the crime he committed. Executing a death penalty is costly for the governments as such cases are tried for a long time resulting in jury expenditures and security arrangements for the courts. Lastly and most importantly, it is morally wrong to take a life to stop crimes when the same purpose can be achieved through other means effectively like life without parole.

The enforcement of death penalty is highly dependent on the society’s construct and the public opinion (Wood 63). If a society holds strong political and ideological interest, it is likely that capital offenses are awarded strict punishments like death penalty to keep up the societal balance and sanctity of its socio-political ideology. Secondly, public opinion is a determinant of having the death penalty in place. Where many people have a humanitarian approach with a soft spot for life in general, whether a convict’s or a victim’s, many people still believe that the death penalty is the only way to keep crimes at their minimal and bring relief to the victims’ family.

In the developing world, death penalty is seen to be an active form of justice, but the developed countries also have a hard time putting it to an end. As far as the US is concerned, 31 states out of 52 states in the U.S. still practice the death penalty, including California. In 2006, the District Court judge declared that the death penalty was against the eighth amendment of the United States constitution that states that the federal government is liable to refrain from cruel punishments including torture and unusual punishments. The then governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, took this declaration into account and levied an indefinite delay on the death penalty. This delay is still underway because of the current rifts between the prisoners’ attorneys’ and state’s attorney general on the 8th amendment and the lack of its application. With many criminals on death row, whether California should ban death penalty in lieu of life imprisonment without parole has become a hot debate topic. This also brings to light the decade log pleas of different human rights organizations all over the world protesting against the death penalty demanding a ban on this kind of punishment.

The truth is, the death penalty is an ancient way of dealing with crime. It may bring temporary relief to the victim’s family but even many such families admit that nothing, not even the criminal’s death, can bring back the loved one. It is believed that death penalty brings a deterrent in the crime but there is no proof that is more effective than other custodial punishments.

After reviewing the above provided details it would not be wrong to state that death penalty is not a good option, vouching for Life Imprisonment without parole. Life Imprisonment is a severe punishment in itself with a criminal confined to a life within the prison and is condemned to die in prison. This fulfills the purpose of death penalty: that is to restrict crime in the hands of the convicted murderer. Not only is taking someone’s, anyone’s, life immoral in nature but also defies other rules set by the society. Demolishing the practice of death penalty will speak of societal values like safeguarding and valuing each life. Total abolition of capital punishment will also ensure that no innocent is put to death, as seen in many cases. Since the practice can only be stopped if the public opinion is in the favor of it abolition, a wide spread campaign to clarify the alternatives to capital punishment, their implication and the effects of abolishing the practice (Bedau 16). Many jurors sentence people to death penalty because they believe that the offenders may be released on parole (Dieter 3). They need to be briefed on how the term ‘for life’ means till the natural death of the offender and that the above 25 years of parole has never lead to any criminal getting out of the prison in the history of the state of California. Apart from this, death penalties only add to the judiciary’s expenses as stated above. The reason why life without parole is even considered as an alternative to death sentence is because it is stringent and as excruciating as death. The criminal loses his shot at leading a normal life and is likely to either end up becoming calm person or demonstrate redemption. Civilized societies of the world should unite in eradicating this barbaric act of punishment to ensure that the practice is discontinued from the different parts of the world altogether. Proposition 34 in California for the abolition of Death penalty was defeated not because the Americans are in favor of barbaric punishments, but because the people were not fully aware of the different facts regarding the authenticity of the no-parole policy with life imprisonment cases. Facts need to be clarified in order to gain a proper and just opinion of the people at large. People are not evil by nature, and if the facts are clarifies they are sure to accept that evil is not to be dealt with an eye for eye approach.

In conclusion, Death penalty is an immoral and barbaric punishment for anyone, even if he is guilty of murder. Since the government has the responsibility to ensure each life is protected and the societal peace is not compromised at the expense of killing the offender, life imprisonment without the chance of parole is a perfect alternative punishment for offenders as it is a humane way of punishing that may even result in the convict’s redemption for his heinous acts.


Baldus, David C., and George G. Woodworth. Equal justice and the death penalty: A legal and empirical analysis. UPNE, 1990

Bedau, Hugo Adam. The death penalty in America: current controversies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.

Dieter, Richard C.. Sentencing for life: Americans embrace alternatives to the death penalty. Washington, DC: Death Penalty Information Center, 1993. Print.

Hood, Roger, and Carolyn Hoyle. The death penalty: a worldwide perspective.. 4th rev. and expanded ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.